WJ&L is a sophisticated New Jersey commercial law firm with substantial expertise in the areas of land use, litigation, real estate, business, corporate & commercial law, and tax, trusts & estate planning. “Our attorneys enjoy strong working relationships with our clients. We are particularly proud of our problem-solving ability and unflappable approach to any challenge. We take our work very seriously but not necessarily ourselves.” ~ Tom Wells
Just what you need to know
The law firm of Wells, Jaworski & Liebman, LLP was initially established in 1986 as a solo practice by Thomas M. Wells, but it rapidly grew and reached its present size within just 5 or 6 years. Fellow Administrative Partners Jim Jaworski joined in 1987, Stuart Liebman in 1990 and Mark Balian joined in 2013. Partners, Jim Delia joined the firm in 1993, Darrell Felsenstein in 1998 and Andy Kohut in 2006.
While we have become known for our in-depth experience in New Jersey land use and zoning, we have also developed an excellent reputation for our other areas of practice, all of which have been active since 1986: real estate; business & corporate law; litigation; and tax, trusts and estate planning.
Our client list is a virtual Who’s Who of well-known names in New Jersey and New York. We process most of the biggest land use and zoning applications in Northern New Jersey. Businesses organizations of all sizes (although not companies that are publicly traded) non-profits, and private individuals approach us for legal assistance.
Our financial clients roster speaks volumes about our trustworthiness and diligence:
Hudson City Savings Bank (prior to M&T Bank merger)
Valley National Bank
We also represent local government entities:
Glen Rock Zoning Board of Adjustment & Planning Board
Hawthorne Board of Adjustment
We have long-term associations with a number of significant New Jersey non-profit organizations including:
ArtsPower, Verona, NJ
Beachview Dreams Foundation, Ocean City, NJ
Children’s Aid & Family Services, Paramus, NJ
Fritz Behnke Historical Musuem, Paramus NJ
Life Opportunities, Ridgewood, NJ
Ridgewood Library Foundation, Ridgewood, NJ
Salamone Family Foundation, Bonita Springs, FL
YMCA of Ridgewood, New Jersey, Ridgewood, NJ
“For over twenty-one years Tom Wells and his associates at Wells, Jaworski & Liebman have represented our agency on a host of matters. Their responsiveness, caring and breadth of expertise is first rate as is their grasp of the unique dynamics of the non-profit sector. Whether the issue is estate and trusts, real estate matters, employment or general liability their guidance and counsel have been rock solid. The peace-of-mind provided by having a quality firm upon which to rely is priceless. That we are a non-profit and a relatively modest client and we have the level of service we receive is extraordinary and speaks volumes to this firm’s commitment to the community and our sector. I am grateful to Tom and all the staff at WJ&L for their many years of counsel, their generous support of vulnerable children and families as donors, as partners in building a stronger community and also as friends.”
Roberts Jones, PH.D., Former President and CEO of Children’s Aid and Family Services, a $17 Million Dollar not-for-profit operation with 250 employees and 800 volunteers serving Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Hudson and Morris Counties with headquarters in Paramus, New Jersey
The attorneys at Wells, Jaworski & Liebman, LLP have a broad range of interests and substantial involvement in civic and non-profit matters in their communities, and Tom Wells, Jim Jaworski, and Stuart Liebman are all active Rotarians. The Rotarian’s “4 way test” is illustrative of these three partners’ philosophy towards business and life:
In addition, Tom Wells has substantial expertise in forming new non-profits, and in particular, foundations. He has, on many occasions, donated his services and the firm covered the costs of setting up a new 501(c)(3) and remained on the board in the organization’s initial year.
Tom Wells has set up a foundation of his own with the help and support of friends and clients. It is called the Wells Mountain Foundation and it provides support in developing nations in the areas of literacy, the arts and community building. WMF currently has projects in five countries and scholarship students in more than 30 countries including Ghana, Senegal, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Macedonia, and Haiti.
Tom Wells is the founding partner of Wells, Jaworski & Liebman LLP (www.wellslaw.com), a 30 year old Paramus, New Jersey-based commercial and corporate law firm. He served as the firm’s first Managing Partner and guided its growth to its present status as a highly respected firm. After stepping down as Managing Partner, Tom remained the CFO and one of the firm’s three Administrative Partners. Tom concentrates his practice in real estate, land use, business, commercial, and non-profit areas. As also the owner of a number of business enterprises, Tom has significant expertise in the area of business client representation and complex financing arrangements for real estate development and business working capital. For more than twenty years, Tom has enjoyed an AV (highest possible) Peer Review Rating from Martindale Hubbell national lawyers directory.
In addition to the law firm, Tom Wells is the Managing Partner of Wells Mountain LLC, a real estate development and management firm with properties principally in the state of Vermont, including five restorations of historic buildings into modern, successful commercial properties with over 45 tenants. Tom is also a “banker,” having served nine years on the Board of Directors of Cascade Bancorp, a Bend, Oregon-based bank holding company.
Tom also enjoys numerous philanthropic and civic involvements, including over 30 years of active participation in both Rotary International and the YMCA, principally as an Officer, Director and Trustee of the Ridgewood, New Jersey YMCA and, in recent years, as a non-Haitian member of the Board of Directors for YMCA d’Haiti. Wells principal philanthropic activity is as the Founder and President of Wells Mountain Foundation (www.wellsmountainfoundation.org) which he began 11 years ago. “WMF” is a 501(c)(3) qualified charity active in the areas of education, literacy and the arts primarily in the developing world and at last count had 82 active WMF Scholars (up from just one in 2005) studying in 24 countries, mostly in Africa. WMF is also particularly active in Haiti where Tom spearheaded the construction and development of four Container YMCA Community Centers built from former shipping containers utilizing a unique award-winning design. A fifth one is planned for 2016.
Tom is a graduate of Bucknell University, where this year he received the Distinguished Citizenship Award together with his wife, Carol, and of Case Western Reserve School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, Vermont and Ohio and in various District Courts. He is a former member of the Bergen County District Ethics Committee.
Tom presently divides his time between homes in New York City, St. Thomas, U.S. V.I., and Bristol, Vermont. He maintains offices in Vermont and St. Thomas, as well as Paramus, New Jersey. Tom and his wife, Carol, are avid sailors. They make their fourth “home” aboard their 50′ sailboat, Epilogue. Tom and Carol are the proud parents of three daughters.
Stuart is the Managing Partner of Well, Jaworski & Liebman, LLP. Stuart joined the firm as a partner in 1990 merging his successful practice into the growing firm. In 1996, Stuart took over from Tom Wells as Managing Partner, and now shares administrative duties with Tom, Jim Jaworski and Mark Balian, who together with Stuart, serve as the firm’s Administrative Partners. In addition to Zoning and Land Use law, Stuart actively practices in the Real Estate, Business, and Commercial areas handling complex transactions. He has represented many clients in land use development application hearings before Zoning and Planning Boards throughout the state as well as all county and state agencies for development applications. Stuart also sits on the other side of the table as a former member of the NJDOT Highway Access Code Advisory Group and is a member of the New Jersey Federation of Planning Officials. He also serves as a municipal zoning and planning board attorney. Stuart enjoys an AV (highest possible) Peer Review Rating from Martindale Hubbell national lawyers diary, and New Jersey Super Lawyer rating.
Stuart is a graduate of the University of Maryland and Western New England University School of Law. Before entering private practice, Stuart served as a law clerk to the Honorable James T. Murphy, J.S.C., Law Division, and Superior Court of New Jersey. Stuart is admitted to practice before the New Jersey State Bar and the United States District Court of the District of the District of New Jersey. He is a member of the Bergen County and New Jersey Bar Associations, and is Chairman of the Bergen County Bar Association Land Use Law Committee. Stuart sits on the Board of Directors of ArtsPower, currently serving as its president and is a member of the Paramus, New Jersey Rotary Club. He is a past-president of Temple Beth Sholom in Fair Lawn and is a member of The Presidents Council of The Valley Hospital. Stuart is active in the University of Maryland and Western New England’s Alumni Associations.
Darrell is a partner and is the chair of WJL’s Litigation Department. He is active both handling commercial and general civil litigation matters. Darrell also is involved in our Business and Corporate practice and has experience handling real estate matters. He is admitted to practice in New Jersey, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Prior to beginning his practice, Darrell was a Law Clerk to the Honorable Marilyn C. Clark, J.S. C. Superior Court of New Jersey in Passaic County.
Darrell is a former Trustee of the Bergen County Bar Association, having served three terms and currently participates in its General Equity and Civil Practice Committees. Darrell also volunteers with the Speakers Bureau of the New Jersey State Bar Foundation and is a former vice president in charge of travel baseball of the Board of the Glen Rock Baseball Association.
Andrew’s practice is concentrated in land use and planning, development and commercial real estate transactions. His representation encompasses all aspects of the development process from the initial planning stages to approvals at the Municipal, County and State levels. Andrew has successfully appeared before land use boards throughout New Jersey handling a wide array of site plan and variance applications. Andrew also has experience successfully representing Municipal land use boards.
Mark S. Balian is an Administrative Partner with the firm sharing administration and firm management duties with Tom Wells, Jim Jaworski and Stuart Liebman. Mr. Balian practices in the Tax, Trusts, and Estates and Business and Commercial areas of laws. His focus is in the fields of estate planning, estate administration and estate litigation as well as business and commercial tax planning, litigation and transactions of commercial real estate, leases, acquisitions, mergers, dissolutions, and private business compliance and guidance. His sophisticated and diverse experience and educational background enables Mr. Balian to assist his clients in multiple often interrelated areas of law while servicing with the care and attention to detail that they deserve.
Mr. Balian has negotiated and closed numerous complex business transactions and served as counsel to mid-sized businesses and public corporations in various industries and professions, often working with in-house counsel. His practice also includes succession planning for businesses, conservatorships and guardianships, and the representation of Executors, beneficiaries, corporations and business partners in litigation matters.
Mr. Balian’s experience prior to Wells, Jaworski & Liebman, LLP includes employment with a Bergen County law firm practicing in the areas of tax, trusts, and estates and business and commercial Law. In addition, he worked for a Bergen County forensic accounting firm engaged in forensic and legal investigative casework in the areas of estate and gift tax, shareholder dissent and oppression, divorce, and damage claims assisting in the mediation of high net worth divorce cases and master of discovery roles, trust accountings, valuation of private practices, lifestyle analyses, gift tax valuations, and operating and trust agreement analyses. Mr. Balian also served as law clerk to The Honorable Susan Peikes Gantman of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Balian is a member of the Greater New Jersey Estate Planning Council, the Hudson-Bergen Inn of Transactional Counsel, Bergen County Bar Associations, the 200 Club of Bergen County, an organization which supports local public servicemen and women, and a supporter of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police.
Mr. Balian is a cum laude graduate of Villanova University, receiving a Bachelors of Science degree in accounting with a concentration in the honors program in 2004. He graduated from the Villanova University School of Law and School of Business in 2007, receiving both his Juris Doctor and Master in Business Administration. After law school, Mr. Balian received his LL.M. (legal master’s degree) in taxation from Villanova Law in addition to a certificate in estate planning. He is licensed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Mr. Balian has litigated matters at the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Appellate Division level.
Jim serves as an Administrative Partner in our firm and also chairs our Real Estate department. His practice is concentrated on Commercial Real Estate, including Land Use and Development. Jim’s land use practice focuses on municipalities in Northern Bergen County. Jim enjoys an AV (highest possible) Peer Review Rating from Martindale Hubbell national lawyers directory.
Prior to becoming an attorney, Jim served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force from 1974-1979. He continued to serve as Staff Sergeant in the Air Force Reserves until he was honorably discharged in 1981. Jim received his undergraduate and law degrees from Ramapo College and New York Law School, respectively. Jim is admitted to practice in New York, New Jersey and the United States District Courts in New York and New Jersey. He is a member of the Bergen County Bar Association. As an adjunct member of the Ramapo College faculty, he also serves on the Alumni Advisory Board for Ramapo’s Anisfield School of Business.
A member of the Bergen Highlands Ramsey Rotary Club since 1992, Jim was President of the Club in the year 2000 and is currently serving on the Club’s Foundation Board. Other civic or pro bono involvements include the Center for Food Action, St. Paul’s R.C.C. in Ramsey, Advisory Board Member of New Jersey Botanical Garden, and West Bergen Mental Healthcare where he is a Member of the Foundation Board of Trustees.
Partner Jim Delia has been a member of our firm for close to 25 years and serves as the Chair of our very active Land Use practice. In addition to Land Use, Jim focuses his practice in the areas of Commercial and Residential Real Estate, Leasing and Transactional areas. He is also the person the firm turns to we are called upon to handle a criminal matter. Before moving to WJ&L, Jim was an Assistant Prosecutor for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, where he served as Chief of the Fraud Squad investigating white-collar crime and political corruption. Prior to becoming an Assistant Prosecutor, Jim served as law clerk to the Honorable James T. Murphy, J.S.C., Law Division, Superior Court of New Jersey.
Jim received his degrees from St. Joseph University and Seton Hall University’s School of Law. He is admitted to practice in New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and is a member of the Bergen County Bar Association.
Jim is a member of the Ridgewood, New Jersey YMCA’s World Service Committee. Since 2008, he has traveled to Haiti to support the Y’s mission in Haiti, running a youth sports camp for the underprivileged Haitian youth.
Spencer J. Rothwell is an associate with the firm in the Land Use, Litigation and Real Estate departments. Prior to joining Wells, Jaworski & Liebman, he was an associate at a firm in Ramsey where he litigated a broad range of civil defense matters. He has extensive experience handling both commercial and general civil litigation matters. Spencer is admitted to practice before the State and Federal Courts in New Jersey, and before the Courts of the State of New York. He graduated from Lehigh University in 2005 with a B.S. and earned his J.D. from Rutgers School of Law in Newark in 2008, where he served as Production Editor of the Women’s Rights Law Reporter. Following law school, he served as law clerk to the Hon. John E. Selser, J.S.C. of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Passaic County. Spencer is a member of the Bergen County Bar Association and a graduate of The Justice Morris Pashman American Inn of Court.
Jessica R. Witmer is an associate with the firm in the Tax, Trust and Estates, Business and Commercial and Real Estate departments. She has experience drafting and negotiating numerous complex commercial deals. Prior to Wells, Jaworksi and Liebman, she worked in Westchester County, New York, predominately working with credit unions advising on a vast range of business matters.
Ms. Witmer graduated from Stockton University in 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and graduated cum laude from Pace University School of Law in 2013, where she earned a Certificate in Environmental Law. While at Pace University, she served as a senior associate on the Pace Environmental Law Review and served as the president of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. She is licensed in New Jersey and New York.
Kathryn L. Walsh is an associate in with the firm in the Land Use and Zoning Law, Litigation and Real Estate Departments.
Prior to joining Wells, Jaworski & Liebman, Kate was an associate at a land use firm where she represented a number of commercial and residential real estate developers and other property owners before planning and zoning boards in Northern New Jersey. Kate also assisted in her prior firm’s representation of municipalities, as well as planning and zoning boards.
Prior to entering private practice, Kate served as the judicial law clerk in the Law Division for the Honorable Joseph S. Conte, J.S.C. in the Bergen County Superior Court. After Judge Conte’s retirement, Kate served as a law clerk for the Honorable Alexander H. Carver, III, J.S.C. for the remaining period of her clerkship, where she assisted in drafting the opinions in several significant land use cases. Kate is admitted to practice in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania (2012).
Kate is a graduate of Villanova University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and History. Kate is also an active member of Tridelta sorority and continues to do fundraising for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through Tridelta, including participating in Alex’s Lemonade Stand each year.
Areas of Practice
Preeminent zoning attorneys with extensive experience in sophisticated environmental matters, construction issues, zoning laws, land use law, and anticipated future land use.
Sophisticated real estate lawyers adept in a wide variety of real estate legal matters, both complex and straight forward, commercial and residential.
A full range of business and corporate services for all types of corporate and commercial transactions including legal advice for mergers and acquisitions, complex business transactions and financing.
Experienced civil and commercial litigation attorneys handling matters ranging from liability, contract dispute, estate controversies, employment issues, tax appeals, and much more. The litigation attorneys bring decades of experience to the table.
Highly skilled tax, trusts and estate planning attorneys and paralegals handling from complex to basic estate planning, estate administration, including wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and living wills. Elder law and Medicaid planning are handled as well.
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